Bridge exec tes­ti­fies to sign­ing off on false N.J. traf­fic story

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By David Porter

NE­WARK, N.J. — The head of the agency that op­er­ates the Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Bridge tes­ti­fied Wed­nes­day that a for­mer col­league charged with caus­ing grid­lock for po­lit­i­cal ret­ri­bu­tion tried to per­suade him to keep traf­fic lanes closed be­cause it was “im­por­tant to Tren­ton,” which he took to mean Repub­li­can Gov. Chris Christie’s of­fice.

Pa­trick Foye later ac- knowl­edged dur­ing cros­sex­am­i­na­tion he ap­proved send­ing news re­leases pro­mot­ing a false story about the traf­fic jams.

Foye’s tes­ti­mony put the fo­cus on the Port Author­ity of New York and New Jer­sey, which runs the bridge and New York-area air­ports, tun­nels, tran­sit hubs and the World Trade Cen­ter.

Foye, the agency’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, put a stop to the four days of Septem­ber 2013 traf­fic jams in Fort Lee that the gov­ern­ment has charged were part of a po­lit­i­cal vendetta against the town’s Demo­cratic mayor for not en­dors­ing Christie for re-elec­tion.

Foye de­scribed or­der­ing the re­open­ing of the lanes on Sept. 13, 2013, af­ter re­ceiv­ing re­ports of grid­lock for days. Later that day, he tes­ti­fied, he met twice with deputy ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Bill Ba­roni, Christie’s top ap­pointee to the agency.

Ba­roni and Christie’s for­mer deputy chief of staff, Brid­get Kelly, are ac­cused of re­duc­ing ac­cess lanes to the bridge and face fraud, con­spir­acy and civil rights charges. They have pleaded not guilty.

Ba­roni asked Foye to close the lanes again be­cause it was “im­por­tant to Tren­ton,” Foye tes­ti­fied. Foye also tes­ti­fied Ba­roni told him Christie’s se­nior staff had been briefed.

Christie isn’t charged and has de­nied knowl­edge of the plan un­til well af­ter it was put into ac­tion. How­ever, pros­e­cu­tors said Mon­day that ju­rors would hear tes­ti­mony that peo­ple bragged about the scheme to Christie on the third day of the four days of clo­sures.

De­fense at­tor­neys tried to show that Foye knew about the clo­sures ear­lier than he said. Pressed by at­tor­ney Michael Critch­ley, rep­re­sent­ing Kelly, Foye ad­mit­ted ap­prov­ing shortly af­ter the clo­sures news re­leases that he knew out­lined a false nar­ra­tive — that the re­duc­tion of bridge ac­cess lanes in Fort Lee was part of a traf­fic study.

“When the buck came to you, you al­lowed a false press re­lease to go out?” Critch­ley asked.

“The state­ment wasn’t true. I let it go out, yes,” Foye re­sponded.

DREW AN­GERER/GETTY

Pa­trick Foye tes­ti­fies Wed­nes­day in Ne­wark, N.J.

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